Strength Training : Where Do I Start ?

Posted on 11-Jul-2016 by Kripa Jalan

Strength Training : Where Do I Start ?

Let’s be honest, completely changing your existing routine can be extremely terrifying. For some it’s fear of the unknown, while for some it’s resistance to change.

You’ve walked by the weights area multiple times on the way to the treadmill. Heck, you’ve even thought about giving it a shot. But then you think, where the hell to I start? What should a beginner do? You need clarity. You’ve got a number of factors to conquer. That’s what’s keeping you from chasing your goals.

For beginners it’s mainly:

  1. Habit formation
  2. Efficiency with the movements
  3. Body awareness
  4. Readiness to train and recover

Also life is way easier when you’re stronger. Luggage? No problem. Carrying children? No problem. Grocery bags? Still no problem. So how do you become the strongest version of yourself?

  1. Develop bigger muscles, obviously.
  2. Master the form on lifts.
  3. Strengthen your connective tissue.
  4. Improve your joint health.

All in all it boils down to the lift heavy bit.

First and foremost, go in with an open mind. No more excuses.

  1. “I’m too old”:

You’re never to old to train. In fact as you age, you lose bone density at a rapid rate. Any form of strength training can help combat this issue, in addition to reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia too.

  1. “I’m a sportsman”:

Strength training will actually help better your performance. It will increase the endurance of your muscles as well as help taper your body fat percentage.

  1. “I’ll get bulky”:

Women and weight training? Ladies, let’s stop looking at pro athletes and bodybuilding sites. Those women have worked their butts off to be the way they are, training insane hours, supplementing and eating surplus calories. As I’ve said before, you don’t turn into a beast overnight. As far as women go, they lack the testosterone levels to build muscle the way men do. They get strong and lean, not bulky.

  1. “I’ll get injured”:

You might. But then any form of exercise can cause injury, if done with bad form. You may trip while you run, you may fall in your dance class. You’ve just got be careful and get your form down to a t. Leave your ego aside. You need to train to your capacity not mirror the person next to you squatting a 100 kgs. .

  1. “I need to lose weight first”:

Well, strength training will do just that. It’s as simple as more muscle, greater metabolism, lesser fat. Your “weight loss” may seem slower, but you will lose inches far faster than you will by running a 10 k everyday.

So you’re convinced you need to be building strength, let’s get onto the how to get started” part. You should be excited. No more hours of running like a hamster on a treadmill, no more boredom and no more aimless walks down the isles of the gym.

How do I pick a gym?

It’s a big decision. You will be spending a significant amount of your week there (hopefully), so make sure the environment is one that suits you and one you feel you will thrive in.

  1. 1.Equipment: You don’t need the latest, most expensive machines, just the stuff you require. Whether it’s barbells, kettlebells, calisthenics or plyometric support or the likes.
  2. Coaches: Most gyms have great coaches who will help develop and assist you with an individualized training plan. Remember you need to master form and technique before everything else, that’s where expertise comes handy and saves you from a possible injury.
  3. Location and hours: Most of us have ridiculous work schedules. If you’re planning to go early in the morning, at lunch hour or late at night make sure it’s open and convenient to get to. It’s better to pay a little extra and pick a gym that you’ll actually use instead letting the membership go unused.
  4. Budget: Remember, more expensive doesn’t always mean better. If a gym has most of what you need go for it, you needn’t pay double the amount for another gym with added amenities you won’t end up using.
  5. Classes: If you prefer to workout in groups, look for a CrossFit gym, or one with classes. There’s a great feeling of camaraderie and you won’t be the only one working hard.

But what happens when you lift?

  1. Muscles are broken down. When you leave the gym, your body begins rebuilding that muscle and recruits more calories in the process. You come back stronger and refreshed.
  2. With increase in the number of repetitions you increase glycogen storage in the muscles, i.e. they begin to grow. This is nothing but a kind of hypertrophy.

What kind of strength training should I do?

  1. Bodyweight training: Minimalistic training, requiring little or no equipment. Push-ups, pull ups, squats etc. and you’re good to go. Only problem is you need to keep modifying the movements as you progress.
  2. Dumbbells: Great for beginners. You can buy an adjustable pair for home or workout at a gym. It’s easier for newbies to get accustomed to the movements using dumbbells as compared to barbells.
  3. Barbells: If strength is the main focus, here’s your winner. Owing to their stability it’s easier to work up to a heavy weight and also increase the weight in small amounts as opposed to huge leaps. The only problem is it occupies a large amount of space and requires a certain amount of expertise, so you may not be able to do it at home.

Which is the best?

Realistically, the one that you will enjoy and commit to long term. Depending on whether you’re working out at home or a gym, you’ve got your options laid out for you.

Then there’s rep range. So the number of sets and reps you do changes the outcome of the routine.

Here’s a quick look:

  • 1-5 range: Builds dense muscle and strength.
  • 6-12 range: Builds endurance and strength.
  • >12 range: Builds muscular endurance and size.

As you can see the rep range will differ based on your goals. If you’re looking to just be fitter, strength is not of primary concern. Go for a circuit. But if you’re looking to get stronger and build muscle, go for a traditional method, concentrating on heavy lifts. All that said and done, make sure it gets more difficult over time. Never let your body get used to a plan, or it will stop progressing. This could mean one more rep, an increase on 0.5 kgs. on your lift, a faster sprint and so on. You need to be better than you were yesterday.

How much should I lift?

First, learn how to perform the movement flawlessly, then worry about the weights. Start with a broomstick or bodyweight movements and master them. It’s just as simple as, if you can’t perform a movement without weight, how will you do it with it?

Once you feel like you’ve got the hang of it, progress to just the bar.

Then when you’re comfortable, the next progression would be to start adding weight. Focus on getting each rep correct. Your strong foundation will help with heavy lifts later. The best thing you can do is, slowly add weight and progress steadily rather than advance quickly hit a plateau.

How often should you lift?

Generally, training each lift 2-4 times per week will do the trick. Why?  

  • You need practice.
  • You need a lot of it.

There’s nothing set in stone as per you training frequency.

More importantly, muscle protein synthesis is high for new lifters for quite a long time: Up to 48 hours is pretty typical.  For more advanced lifters, that’s down to 12-24 hours.

Recovery:

What you do outside the gym is just as if not more important than what you do inside. That’s where the muscle rebuilding magic happens. So it’s important to take adequate rest days as a part of your strength program. Generally, it’s best to wait 48 hours before working the same muscle group again. Then again most lifts affect multiple muscle groups. For example while training chest, you are also recruiting your shoulders and triceps in the process. Recovery is different for different people.

What gear do I need?

Truth is when you’re starting out you don’t need half the gear you see at a gym.

  1. Clothing – Ignore fashion; wear what’s comfortable.
  2. Shoes – The number one piece of “gear” you need is a good pair of shoes to lift in. Your classic running shoe will not do here.
  3. Gloves – You don’t want callouses, but then again you still might get them under the protection if gloves. In fact gloves can even mess with your technique and grip.
  4. Knee/Wrist Wraps/Straps-You’re just starting out you’re not going to be going super heavy. Unless you’re injured, these are pretty unnecessary.
  5. Weightlifting Belt – Mainly for intermediate and advanced lifters. You needn’t worry about accessories and this stage. Get a good pair of shoes and you’re good to go.

Will I be sore?

You will get sore, you are treading down a new path. DOMS i.e. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.  It’s soreness that you feel in your muscles that doesn’t show up until a day or two after you work out. It’s a normal part of the process of repairing your muscles from the damage to the fibers you created while exercising. With time your muscles will get used to the movements and consequently you will be less sore.

One way to make the soreness go away, at least temporarily, is to continue to exercising.  This increases blood flow to the muscles and helps them heal. But don’t over train.

General rules:

  • Always re-stack your weights
  • Remember everyone, started somewhere.
  • You can share a machine with someone who’s using it.
  • It’s okay to ask for a spotter.
  • Leave your ego aside.
  • Wipe your sweat.
  • Don’t monopolize equipment.
  • Do your own thing.

You need to enjoy your training.  This is a key ingredient to improvement.

Don’t overthink this, JUST START.

To summarise:


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